This spray-on sunscreen provides adequate broad spectrum sun protection, but its SPF rating is well below the minimum standard SPF 30 now recommended by dermatologists. That's strike number one…
Strike two comes in the form of alcohol—as in almost 85% alcohol, which is how this formula gets its dry oil feel (and why it dries so fast once sprayed on skin). Unfortunately, high amounts of alcohol hurt skin, as we explain in the More Info section below.
Strike three is the fact that this sunscreen encourages tanning, which is the worst thing anyone can do to their skin (at least if you want to keep it young-looking, even, and healthy). This is absolutely a water-resistant sunscreen to leave on the shelf in favor of any from our list of Best Sunscreens, Water-Resistant.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Alcohol's effect on your skin is similar to its effect on the rest of your body: it steals the good (hydration) and leaves the bad (dryness, redness, and discomfort). Research has made it clear that alcohol as a main ingredient in any skincare product you use repeatedly is a problem.
When we express concern about the presence of alcohol in skincare or makeup products, we're referring to denatured ethanol, which you'll most often see listed as SD alcohol, alcohol denat, denatured alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol on the ingredient label.
When you see these names of this type of alcohol listed among the first six ingredients on an ingredient label, without question they will aggravate and be cruel to skin. No way around that, it's simply bad for all skin types.
These types of volatile alcohols give products a quick-drying finish, immediately degrease skin, and feel weightless, so it's easy to see their appeal, especially for those with oily skin. But those short term benefits lead to negative long term outcomes!
Consequences include dryness, erosion of skin's surface (that's really bad for skin), and a strain on how skin replenishes, renews, and rejuvenates itself. Alcohol just weakens everything about skin.
We are often challenged on this information based on a study in the British Journal of Dermatology, July 2007, issue 1, pages 74-81 that concluded "alcohol-based hand rubs cause less irritation than hand washing…" The only thing this study showed is that alcohol was not as irritating as an even more irritating hand wash containing sodium lauryl sulfate. Think about it this way, if you test to see whether or not you'll get burnt by a flame or slowly boiling hot water, you will quickly get damaged by the fire. You will eventually be damaged by the slowly boiling hot water it will just take longer, but burned you will be.
There are other types of "alcohols", known as fatty alcohols, which are absolutely non-irritating and can be exceptionally beneficial for skin. Examples you'll see on ingredient labels include cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol. All of these are good ingredients for skin. It's important to discern these skin-friendly forms of alcohol from the problematic types of alcohol.
The irony of using alcohol-based products to control oily skin is that the damage from alcohol can lead to an increase in bumps and enlarged pores. Alcohol can actually increase oiliness because of the irritating feeling it creates, so the immediate de-greasing effect is eventually counteracted, prompting your oily skin to look even shinier.
References for this information:
Dermato-Endocrinology, January 2011, issue 1, pages 41-49
Experimental Dermatology, June 2008, issue 6, pages 542-551
Alcohol Journal, April 2002, issue 3, pages 179-190
Aging, March 2012, issue 3, pages 166-175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77-80
Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, November 2008, issue 3
Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, issue 5, pages 360-36
Active: Homosalate (10%), Oxybenzone (2%), Other: Alcohol Denat. (84.2%), Mineral Oil, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Fragrance
Strengths: A few effective, basic sunscreens with various but typically lightweight textures (especially the Ultra Sheer); all recommended sunscreens are also water-resistant; inexpensive, which should encourage liberal application and reapplication; reliable self-tanners tailored to various skin tones.
Weaknesses: The majority of their sunscreens lack sufficient UVA-protecting ingredients, even though Coppertone clearly knows about this and routinely reformulates; all continuous spray products contain irritating alcohol.
This ubiquitous sun-care line has been around for over sixty years and is almost as synonymous with sunscreen as Kleenex is with facial tissue. Yet despite their longstanding history, there is something wanton about a corporation so recognized as a sunscreen manufacturer selling such an abundance of pathetically formulated sunscreens. Although more Coppertone sunscreens than ever include avobenzone or zinc oxide for UVA protection, most of them are still lacking—making this a line to shop very carefully. Ironically, Coppertone includes a fair amount of accurate, sun-smart information on their Web site—but their products aren't following the same advice! For example, they recommend you apply a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher whenever you go outdoors—but then they sell several sunscreens with SPF ratings well below that. That's sort of like your personal trainer puffing on a cigarette while encouraging you to go another ten minutes on the treadmill. They also correctly advise consumers to reapply sunscreen after swimming, perspiring, or toweling off, yet sell products they claim are waterproof and "ultra sweatproof." Don't they realize that is likely to be interpreted by most people as 'one application and you're good to go no matter what outdoor activity is planned'? Regardless of the type of tenacious claim made, all sunscreens need to be reapplied at regular intervals if you are swimming or engaged in strenuous physical activity.
Coppertone also boasts that its sunscreens for kids are the ones recommended most by pediatricians. If that's true, and your child's pediatrician recommends this brand without being specific as to which sunscreen to choose and which to avoid, be sure you find another pediatrician right away. It would mean your child's doctor doesn't know about the cumulative damage from UVA rays, andwe would worry about what else he or she wasn't up to date on.
For more information about Coppertone, call (866)-288-3330 or visit www.coppertone.com.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
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